Only one man in the Rangers camp might have come away from their stirring victory over Feyenoord the other night with a modicum of concern.
The Ibrox men’s perfect start to their Europa League group campaign was accompanied by imperfection from the spot that resulted from James Tavernier’s second straight penalty miss this season.
That doesn’t square with the renowned unerring accuracy of a dead ball expert who boasts 19 conversions from the 23 penalties he has taken across his four-and-a-bit years in Glasgow. Yet, all his failures from 12 yards have come in the past eight months, with three in six attempts.
This run doesn’t appear to be reason for Steven Gerrard to rethink who assumes the penalty duties in his squad, though, should any come their way across a crucial trio of games over the next eight days that will see them away to St Johnstone in the league this lunchtime and facing Livingston in the League Cup quarter-final on Wednesday before welcoming Aberdeen for a Premiership dust-up three days later. And Gerrard doesn’t think that he will require to provide Tavernier with any pick-me-up following his latest penalty disappointment.
“Knowing him, probably not,” the Ibrox manager said. “Tav hasn’t missed a training session, hasn’t missed a game, so I think that shows the mental strength of the player. He is very robust. I will have a chat with him over the penalty – because that is two on the spin now – and get a feel for where he is at with it now.
“But in terms of belief and confidence, James is a big player for us. To be a matchwinner at right back is very unusual and he has won us many a game with moments of brilliance, whether it be from open play or from a free kick, or a big penalty.
“Penalty takers miss penalties – that is the way it is. The chat I will have with James is, are you confident you will score the next one? Do you want to take the next one? Then we will deal with the situation from there but he played his part in a clean sheet against Feyenoord, that is more important to me than the penalty miss.
“Listen, he has been outstanding from the spot. That is four from 18 that he has missed. Still not a bad record, is it? I think it will boil down to him. There will be two sides of how he is feeling right now. ‘I can’t wait for the next penalty because I am going to score it’ or he will be like, ‘hmm, maybe it is for someone else’. We will see which it is and go from there. There are other penalty takers around him if he doesn’t fancy it. There is no pressure on him. If he wants to take it and he is confident he will score it then he will take the next penalty.”
Gerrard was a penalty taker of enormous repute during his playing career. In all he took 46 at club level for Liverpool and LA Galaxy, missing only eight. For England, he had two shoot-out efforts, one saved, one netted. He accepts there was never a time he would have happily stepped aside from the responsibility.
“As you grow with experience you get more confidence and belief in yourself. Early on if I had said to Robbie Fowler that I was on the penalties I would probably have got a backhander. If I had said it to [Alan] Shearer on England duty I would probably get a forearm. As you get more experience, you earn the right. When there is a penalty given you either say ‘ah na’ or you go ‘give me it’. That won’t be the last penalty James misses. But I guarantee he will score an awful lot more as well. That is the way it is.”